A 17th century German composer, chiefly of sacred choral music.

Schutz was born in Bad Lostriz in 1585, and lived his childhood in Weissenfels, Saxony. If he spent most of his life composing sacred music, he really can't be blamed. Consider the wonders the Lord was performing in Weissenfels during Heinrich's lifetime:
  • A series of plagues between 1577 and 1610 killed more than 2500 people in Weissenfels; in 1577 alone 660 people died, almost a third of the city's population.
  • In 1589, at nearby Quedlinburg, 133 witches were burned in a single day.
  • For much of his adult life, the Thirty Years' War (1616-1648) raged through Saxony, another severe drain on the city's population.
  • Within a brief period of time, Schutz lost both his parents, his wife, his only brother, and his two daughters.
  • *
Although surrounded by plague, religious hysteria, war, and personal loss, Heinrich managed to survive until 1672, dying at the ripe old age of 87. In between, he managed to become the foremost German composer of the 17th century. He travelled widely and held posts or performed in many different cities, including Venice, Dresden, and Copenhagen.

His music is quite innovative. For instance, he introduced the Italian monodic style (where one voice carries the melody) into Germany, and fused it with native German music to create an entirely new way of looking at the world, rather than a mere imitation of Italian music. His influence on later German Baroque composers, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, cannot be calculated, as he invented the musical world which they would inherit.

His (often dull, didactic) texts and settings, mostly taken from the Bible, are brought to life by the power of his music. And although at this distance we may not be able to wholly partake in his message, his art gives us a glimpse of what it might be like to believe this message; a glimpse of what the world would be like, if it were so.


* Most of these grim statistics were gathered from the liner notes of a recording of Schutz's "Musicalische Exequien", by La Chapelle Royale, Phillippe Herrewege conducting; on Harmonia mundi (HMC 901261), 1987.

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